August 3, 2021 was release day for Dead Letters, the eighth book in my Claudia Rose Forensic Handwriting suspense series. It takes a lot of effort to write, release, and promote any new book, so I gave myself some time to do all that, and then some more time to clear my mind and ready it for the next plot. At least, that was my excuse.
I had some vague ideas for the next book, which would be in my Beyond the Veil paranormal series. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t seem to get going. The weeks literally Zoomed by (Is anyone else suffering Zoom fatigue?!) and the pages in my fancy and expensive notebook remained blank. Some people seem to have ideas that come like sneezes, two, three, ten at a time. I need an old fashioned crank to get going. So, I called in the big guns—my author friend, Raul Melendez (pen name Peter Sexton), who happens to be an idea machine.
We went to breakfast and I told him generally what I had in mind. Without even taking a breath, he started rolling out an intricate framework for The Last Door. Once the plot is in my head, I can run with it, so we brainstormed and tweaked the idea until I was clear on what I needed to do. The next step was to handwrite my outline. (Research shows that pen and paper tap into creativity much more than the keyboard, and I am, after all, a handwriting analyst).
For the next month, my outline just sat there, glaring at me every time I took it out and looked at it. But under the surface of my devious little brain, the plot simmered. And nearly two weeks into the new year, something happened.
I woke up on January tenth and something was different. I knew I was back. Don’t get me wrong—I’m always writing something, but when it’s not a book, it’s mostly non-fiction about handwriting—a completely different story, if you’ll forgive the expression. I was ready to write Chapter One. Well, those two words, anyway. After looking at them for a while, I followed those words with two whole paragraphs.
But I wasn’t happy with what I’d written. For a few days, I kept trying to figure out what was wrong until I got the Aha! moment. The answer was something I’ve discovered holds true most of the time when I’m unhappy with a scene: I was rushing through, rather than developing it with care, which means word by word. I fixed it. I liked it. And wrote more. Finished the chapter. Wrote Chapter Two, and in writing, discovered more about the story.
So, as of last night, I’m 4,000 words in. That’s only 5% of an 80,000 word book. But it’s 4,000 words! It’s a start. My daily goal is 1,000 words. While that may not be much for some, it’s doable for this writer, and if I’m on a roll 1,000 is just a start; there are no limits.
Now, instead of feeling slightly guilty for not working on a book (“publish or perish” doesn’t apply only to academia), I am excited because something cool is happening at last. In fact, today, I need to work on a class I’m teaching in forensic document examination, but I’d rather be writing Chapter Three. For me, that is a pretty big deal.
How about you, fellow writers? Do ideas and plotting come easy? I’d love to hear about your process.